Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

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Gophers scaled back playbook during bye week

Posted by: Phil Miller under Coaching, College football Updated: November 11, 2011 - 9:36 AM

     I wrote in today's paper about MarQueis Gray's progress at quarterback, and how last week's game at Michigan State, though a loss, showcased all the different skills he has developed. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover was exuberant about Gray's play, and believes that improvement will only continue.
    He said something else that explained some things, too, about why the Gophers may have reached a turning point with their offense. During the bye week last month, after sifting through the wreckage of a 1-5 season and a pair of Big Ten losses that totaled 103-17, he and the other offensive coaches made a decision about the playbook: Get rid of it.
    "We had so much in there, we weren't good at anything. As a staff, we kind of had a heart-to-heart and said, we don't have anything we execute well," Limegrover admitted. "Let's at least hang our hat on something this season that we can build on. Let's get these kids really good at x-number of things, and stop trying to do too much."
    It took those losses, Limegrover said, for the realization to hit home that the Gopher coaches are completely comfortable with the offense, having designed and run it for a decade or more at various stops, but the players are still learning the A-B-Cs. "Sometimes you want to speed things up, so you convince yourself that they're getting it and you start doing some things that they're really not ready for because they just haven't been in the system," Limegrover said. "So we looked at each other and said, 'Hey, right now, it's broke. Are we really doing ourselves any good by continuing to try to do things that we know but the kids really don't?' "
     The result was an even more back-to-basics game plan, Limegrover said. At Michigan State, for example, "We didn't do a whole lot of variety -- I think we had four run schemes and three [pass[ protections," the offensive coordinator said. "Scheme-wise, we didn't do a whole lot, just a lot of base plays, but we window-dressed a bunch of stuff with formations and motions. Got the kids to execute those really well. And I think you saw the byproduct. It was a step forward."
     A step forward by taking a step back.

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